This book draws parallels of our human lifespan, to that of the weather seasons of: spring, summer, autumn and winter. The author assumes the useful years of our being to be eighty. He divides these years, equally, into the four seasons, being twenty years each. Spring season is viewed to be promissory, belonging to the parents or the system that nurtures the young into the confident and independent person of the latter years. Come summer, we become adults, as we reach the peak of our physical growth and energy. Autumn, in the life of plants, is the fall of leaves. Likewise, humanly, red flags start showing up at this time, signalling the reality of our mortality. From the summer years, until somewhere in the winter years, we are wired to be productive. But it is the winter season that calls for us to be collected and to pass on what we have gathered, over the mileage of our life, to those in waiting. The author notes that, while we all can survive spring, summer and autumn, we surely go to sleep in winter. We never start the cycle all over, again. At best, the winter can be long. In other words, we can live, anything past eighty. However, he argues that past eighty, we live a preventative life pattern.
The message of the book is that all seasons are beautiful and it is in our interest to take advantage of each season while it lasts.
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The Seasoned Life
A Fireplace Tale
By Paul Kasonsole-Mukungu
Partridge AfricaCopyright © 2016 Paul Kasonsole-Mukungu
All rights reserved.
The Four Seasons Of Man
Life on a Linear Scale
Fred, my younger brother, started off our after-work conversation: "Hey, man, you know what happened in the office this morning?"
"No, not really," I quipped. "What I know is that today is your forty-second birthday. That's why I'm here, to offer to take you out to dinner — a special treat, courtesy of your big brother. As for your question, did someone give you a pleasant surprise for your birthday? What, exactly, happened in office this morning?"
"Well, first of all, thanks a ton for the dinner invitation. I'll accept it with pleasure. But about the office story — you guessed right. It was something to do with my birthday. Maria called me from Nairobi while I was talking with two guys from Europe. They came to the Foreign Office to inquire about investing in this part of Africa, and they had been referred to me, at the economic desk, for guidance. As I gestured for them to sit, they overheard me respond to Maria's birthday greeting on the phone, when she offered to buy me some cologne and wanted to know what brand I preferred. After I hung up, the two guys said, 'Happy birthday!'"
I thought that was normal, but Fred went on, "You know, Paul, those guys thought I was in my thirties. As a matter of fact, one guessed I was thirty-six, while the second one suggested I was about thirty-two! I quickly added up the two figures they'd proposed, divided the sum into two, and gave them the average as my age, so that it wasn't too far off from their flattering guesstimate!"
"Man, I told them I was thirty-four, to avoid frightening them if they learned of my actual Precambrian age! Paul, those guys could never imagine that I'm forty-two. You and I have grown old."
Sometimes growing old takes us by surprise. We often want to get old at our own pace or, if possible, not at all! We always want to finish this, that, or the other, before we get old.
One day Dr. Odunlami, my friend from Nigeria, said something amusing to my wife, Flavia, and me. I was correcting Flavia, so I thought, as she kept referring to her peers at work as "this girl" or "that boy." I reminded her that her peers or anyone in her age bracket was a woman or a man by now and should be referred to as such, to avoid confusing her listeners! But Flavia would not recant, arguing that many of her peers had been to school with her, way back in high school, so she still saw them as boys and girls.
Dr. Odunlami, listening to this exchange, interjected that time passes without our realizing it is moving. He had his own way of assessing how time moved. He argued, "When the headmaster of your daughter's or son's school is a young man, when your bank manager is a young man, or your dentist is a young woman or man, it's time to realize you have become old!"
Life is measured on a linear scale, meaning that we can physically calibrate it in units of equal divisions. Life and time go together, hence the term lifetime. A lifetime is the duration of existence of a living thing. Time moves progressively. It does not wait. That, however, presents a challenge to us human beings, because procrastination is part of our lives — at least in the part of the world where I live. We take our time to think through decisions that impact our lives. Yet as we take our time deliberating possible courses of action, time keeps ticking and moving forward. It does not stand still. As time passes, with or without our consent, we transform from one stage of our being into another: from an infant to a child; from a child to a juvenile; from a juvenile to a young adult; from a young adult to full maturity; and finally to a senior citizen. Before long, time has run out. For the sake of following my argument, it is in our interest, therefore, to divide the life span of man into equal segments, along a linear scale.
The Seasons of Life
The Bible says in Psalms 90, verse 10, that the length of our days is seventy years, or eighty, if we have strength. Subsequently, Moses (the author of this psalm) pleads to his heavenly Father, in verse 12, to "Teach us [Lord] to number our days alright." In my opinion, this ought to be humanity's plea to God, if we are ever to have a reasonably planned sojourn here on earth.
Dr. Myles Munroe reminds us that all manufactured gadgets have a manual to help the operator assemble and operate the gadget(s) to full benefit. He calls the Bible a manual given to man, by God, the "manufacturer," of man (throughout this book, man refers to both men and women). Dr. Munroe therefore beseeches man to read the "All Time Manual," in order to know how to navigate his life. We therefore need to cultivate a productive relationship with the Holy Spirit to be able to interpret the manual for our "seasoned" lives. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 16:2 and 3, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, you say, 'Today, it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." In Ecclesiastes 3:1, this manual states that there is a season for every activity under heaven (a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to search and a time to give up; a time to keep and a time to let go, and so on). Further on, verse 11 says that God has made everything beautiful in its time. The implication is that there is no bad season. This message applies to man's lifetime on earth.
Literally translated, seasons refer to weather, the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place. Weather is described by temperature, moisture, wind velocity, and pressure. Now, using these principle recordings, let us substitute our individual lives for the seasons, as though these statements were algebraic formulas:
Life ≤ 80 years;
Life activities = seasons = 4 (i.e., spring, summer, autumn, winter)
Therefore: 80 / 4 = 20 years per each season
Season 1: Spring (0 to 20 years)
The first twenty years of a human being's life are spring years, resembling weather of tender warmth. Spring therefore denotes new life, a new beginning, tenderness, innocence, purity, and so on. It is a time for watchful care and nurturing, guidance and bracing. At this time, normal life provides parental or foster care and support. Have you heard of the expression "spring chicken"? It refers to someone young and naïve, with youthful energy. Similar to a research project, during our first twenty years, we are just gathering data in a rudimentary way about what is happening around us. We hardly have the analytical capacity to decipher what we see and learn so quickly. For that matter, we are under the strict guidance of knowledgeable people, lest things go wrong.
Season 2: Summer (21 to 40 years)
Summer is hot weather. It is weather that, at some stage, may require us to use a fan or an air conditioner to cool down the temperature. Mind you, with the exception of people who live in the polar climatic zones, it doesn't matter whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere — summer is hot. You could be in Canada, Egypt, or Australia; the temperatures are the same whenever it is summer for you! People in their summer years are hot and full of drive. Many of us celebrate our twenty-first birthday in a special way; it denotes personal independence. It is a time of taking personal responsibility and making our own decisions. It is a time to be weaned and let go of parental shackles.
The young person between the twenty-first and the fortieth year is full of heat and energy and sometimes needs to be reminded to "cool down." It's the time when we marry and raise children, a time of responsibility. This responsibility may involve looking after our own generation (looking after ourselves); it may require looking after the generation that follows us (our children), but, in some African cultures, it may also mean looking after the generation that preceded ours (our parents). There is so much to do during the summer. The experiences we go through in our summer years give us a lot of exposure but little insight. In other words, it's not easy to see clearly when the summer sun is blazing.
Season 3: Autumn (41 to 60 years)
During autumn, the trees start to shed their leaves. Some say, "Life begins at forty"! Yes, it's true. If you agree that we live up to eighty years, then life forms a parabolic curve, starting at zero to go up to the conical point of forty; then it comes down, back to zero, at about age eighty. In other words, you stop growing up at forty and start shedding the things that used to make you glow, until it is time to depart. At this time, the values you cultivated over the years shape your character, and the world can see how to relate to you. During these years, we are able to look over our shoulders, to appreciate life or hold regrets. It is all part of the reflection that gives us insight.
Season 4: Winter (61 to 80 years)
Winter is cold, and all living things brace themselves for the adversity of this weather phenomenon. Life is slow, and after a day's work, during the evening, we gather around a fire, because the time to sleep is about here. Although you may all congregate in a cozy living room as a family, you eventually go back to sleep in your beds alone, as individuals. This is also true in real life. Yet while at the fire, those of us who have put in a lot of mileage, in terms of years, may be able to tell stories from experience to guide those who are still growing up. Yes, as a person of sixty to eighty-plus, you are expected to be a wise man, a sage. Many may want to sit at your feet to listen to your stories for guidance.
It's how nature interprets life, if one cares to observe. In an average home, in which there is no central heating, the fire is in a specific spot in the house. Conventional architecture puts the fireplace in the living room. So, in the winter, the family congregated around this fire in the living room. Even in equatorial regions or the tropics, where the four seasons are not distinctly defined, the weather is either hot or cold. In tropical Africa, when nights are cold, people light a fire in the center of the compound, and every family member gathers around the fire. Here, the elder members of the family tell stories that impart wisdom to the young. Every one listens to the mellow sage. You are a mellow sage when you are between sixty and eighty.
As you tell stories and share experiences with those under your influence, you are given the opportunity to pass on the baton to those who will succeed you, because the truth of the matter is, we all go to sleep in the winter. We may survive spring, we may survive summer, we may survive autumn, but we never survive winter. At best, winter can only be a long one (i.e., you may live beyond eighty), but we all dread a long winter. So, you do not really want to live beyond your usefulness — yes, beyond the eighties. As an uncle of mine once put it to me, beyond the eighties, the world does not benefit you, nor do you benefit the world.
God has made everything beautiful in its time. Make the best out of every season God has blessed you to enter.
The Tadpole Life Cycle
Way back in 1891, Dr. Rolf Alexander, in his book The Healing Power of the Mind, related one's life opportunities when growing up. He told a story from the perspective of a tadpole hatched in a puddle of mud. For a time, the tadpole was happy to live in the slurry, wriggling and skittering through his soupy habitat, with the long efficient tail that characterizes the aquatic larval stage of a frog or a toad. As time went by, Mr. Tadpole became aware that life was quickly changing unfavorably for him, so it appeared. For example, he lost his wriggling tail and had only a short stump, which was no good for the slurry habitat. A pair of long ugly front legs developed, to be followed soon after by folding, even longer hind legs. This made his moving around the puddle extremely difficult. Besides, the puddle was fast drying up, as the summer sun began to evaporate the water that had liquefied the mud; it became crusty, thus binding him and limiting his movements. As he pushed his head up above the surface of the muddy puddle from the deeper depths, where he'd hibernated in the winter, he realized that green grasses were growing on the vast banks and expanse of land, as rabbits hopped past. Then he realized that he needed to train and exercise his ugly long legs to hop around and hunt for insects on the ground. That was where he needed to be in the summer. He had graduated.
Dr. Alexander concluded that there is a parallel between the tadpole experience and our human development. Each of us, year by year, in our life continuum, is exactly where we should be for our higher development. When we encounter great difficulties in the course of life, we come face-to-face with opportunities. In addition, life never gives us difficulties too great to surmount. All we need do is to draw on our higher powers to aid us, as we keep graduating to higher levels of personal development.
Nature Abhors Monotony
Nature changes her clothing several times a year. The snows of winter give way to the tender greens of spring. In turn, the tender greens morph into yellow, orange, and finally brown. That denotes summer. After summer, though, the natural earth pigment turns gray to announce autumn.
So while it looks as if life starts with spring, life happens to have been ushered in from winter. In most cultures, therefore, the family name is traced in the family tree from those who preceded us. The young carry on the name of old and often deceased relatives. The changes in life are there to let us graduate from one level to another, and we should look forward to the next rung on the ladder of life. This yields the concept of rebirth and regeneration.
Experience shows us that old nations and civilizations wane and die, and on their ruins are built new and different ones. Social systems that seem to be the bedrock of permanence and serenity are swept away in the twinkling of an eye, only for new ones to be installed by those who are present to tap into them.
Common knowledge has it that the body wears out and dies, but the spirit lives on. Given this, Dr. Rolf Alexander suggests that the secret of life and happiness is to seek new experiences and disdain stagnation. We need to go forward spiritually to new and higher adventures, to reflect mileage in physical age. He actually proposes an argument that I buy. He says that knowledge accumulated is never lost. It is when we stop learning that we face monotony, and this eats away at our physical being. New knowledge and exposure lead to new experiences. In the final event, when we have to let go of our bodies, we take a rest to digest our experiences, and we come back in a fresh new body in a new environment to undergo new experiences. We have eternity before us, and what we learn in this life, we shall possess in the form of instinct in the next. Babies come with a certain way of behavior that they learn from no one.
Dr. Stephen Adei was a UN Resident Representative in Namibia when I was a UN specialist with UN Habitat, operating under the UNDP in Namibia, in the mid-1990s. In addition, Dr. Adei was a counselor — something he took on as a calling, as a Christian. He told us in one such counseling workshop that children come with an innate pattern of behavior right from day one on earth. This revelation corroborates Dr. Alexander's assertion that some young stars called prodigies are born with certain forms of knowledge, qualities, and abilities that far out-distance elderly experts in the same field! Have you ever questioned yourself, how can this be?
Now, you may not agree with all of what I'm saying, but the point I'm trying to make is that each of us, every moment, is exactly where we should be, in order to acquire the next necessary experience. As we go through the different seasons, we undergo many experiences, and in the future we shall undergo many more, along the continuum of life. We should not therefore look back, wishing not to let go of the past season. Lot's wife wished she had remained in the city of Sodom. She turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:24–26). Why Lot's wife looked back at Sodom when she was warned not to is subject to debate. Some have argued that she was too attached to her cushy lifestyle and couldn't bear to give it up. She clung to the past; she was unwilling to turn completely away.
Excerpted from The Seasoned Life by Paul Kasonsole-Mukungu. Copyright © 2016 Paul Kasonsole-Mukungu. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: The Four Seasons Of Man, 1,
Chapter 2: The Spring Season: Nurturing Potential, 13,
Chapter 3: The Summer Season: The Road To Independence, 28,
Chapter 4: The Autumn Season: Coming Of Age, 53,
Chapter 5: The Winter Season: Mellow And Sage, 69,
Chapter 6: The Seasons Explained, 93,
Chapter 7: A Life Shared, 102,